Glenn Ligon is known for his resonant works in multiple media that explore issues surrounding race, sexuality, representation and language. Ligon has said of his work that he wants to "make language into a physical thing, something that has real weight and force to it." To this end he frequently uses evocative text, quotations from culturally charged and historical relevant material by writers such as James Baldwin, Jean Genet and Zora Neale Hurston, both as a source of imagery and a means of addressing the politics of representation. He works in a variety of media, including painting, neon, installation, video and print. Throughout his oeuvre, Ligon's work surveys America's cultural legacies and situates them in contemporary life.
Glenn Ligon was born in 1960 in the Bronx and continues to live and work in New York. He received a BA from Wesleyan University in 1982. In 1985, he participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program. Ligon has had solo shows at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (1993), Brooklyn Museum of Art (1996), Saint Louis Art Museum (2000), the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001), Dia Center for the Arts in New York (2003), and The Power Plant in Toronto (2005), among other venues. Group shows in which he has participated include the Whitney Biennial (1991 and 1993), Biennale of Sydney (1996), Venice Biennale (1997), Kwangju Biennale (2000), Documenta 11 (2002), Learn to Read at the Tate Modern, London (2007), and Painting Factory at MOCA, Los Angeles (2012). He has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982, 1989, and 1991), Art Matters (1990), the Joan Mitchell Foundation (1997), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2003). In 2006 he was awarded the Skowhegan Medal for Painting. Upon entering office and moving into the White House, President Barack Obama installed Ligon's 1992 Black Like Me No. 2 in his family’s private living quarters. Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, a major mid-career retrospective of Ligon’s work, was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2011 and the Modern Museum of Fort Worth in 2012.